Inside Move: Banner days for USA, Viv U

New entity to challenge Miramax

HOLLYWOOD — There’s a hidden scenario behind the anticipated combination of USA Films, StudioCanal and Universal Focus.

If everything falls into place, the new entity will aim to challenge Miramax’s hegemony in the indie sector.

Vivendi Universal is trying to finalize an alignment of the companies that promises to shake up the specialized film landscape — especially Miramax’s leverage with top talent. The stated goal of the arrangement, according to several parties involved, is to lure top talent to the Vivendi U fold by accommodating their career inclinations.

Want to star in an event film? Pact with Universal. Want to nurture your passion project and maybe even direct? Don’t take it down the street; trust the experienced hands at USA.

Those sales pitches make sense when you consider how recent titles were handled.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary,” for example, could have been end-to-end U rather than a split with Miramax. (The Working Title project was distribbed by Miramax in the U.S. as part of a larger swap that saw Miramax free up John Madden to helm U’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”)

Vying with Miramax certainly would require significant scaling-up for the indie company formed just three years ago via a merger of October Films and Gramercy Pictures. The staff and release output for USA don’t even approach that of Miramax.

USA topper Scott Greenstein is said to be the likely chief of the new entity, likely reporting to U Pictures chair Stacey Snider.

The timetable for finalizing the arrangement remains unclear, but March 24 could be a tell-tale date.

It’s the night USA’s “Gosford Park” competes for seven Academy Awards.

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